Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Celebrating Twelfth Night With Maria Grace!

Happy New Year everyone! For this New Year's Eve I have a special treat in store for you. Author Maria Grace is visiting my blog as part of her tour for the release of her new book, Twelfth Night at Longbourn. Perfect timing for this release, wouldn't you say? It was my privilege to ask Maria some questions about her writing and her new book. She graciously answered all of them and in doing so, has given us a glimpse of her writing style and what led her there. She is also having a giveaway! Yay, for the readers! Please welcome Maria Grace.

How and when did your interest in Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice take root?

I got introduced to Jane Austen with Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility adaptation after the birth of my third son.  I quickly made up for lost time, devouring everything of Jane Austen’s I could get my hands on.

I love your choice of words...devouring everything of Jane Austen's...that's how I felt too. I think many Janeites experience that same obsession. What drove you to start writing your own books? Did you write other things before writing PnP variations? 

I have been a writer since the third grade. I wrote several fan fiction novels and an original trilogy in high school. But real life and parental dictates that I should be an engineer got in the way. I stopped writing fiction in college, trading it for research papers and scholarly work. I discovered engineering was not for me, but I married an engineer—that should count right? After that, I ended up doing a sixteen year stint as a college professor.
In the midst of all that, I finished reading everything Jane Austen wrote and discovered fan fiction. This new territory jumpstarted my writing again, but not in the expected way.  I began an original science fiction series, which is still in the works.
My first Austenesque piece did not come along until several years later. What started out as a way of coping with some difficult events in my life ended with me finally fulfilling my dream of becoming a published author with the four-book Given Good Principles series.

Isn't it interesting how your dream of publishing came about. I'm sorry that it was because of a difficult time in your life but so glad that if eventually fulfilled your dream. It has made us, the readers, richer for it.  Do you have a muse that causes your story to lead you at times or do you use an outline and follow it religiously? What is your writing routine?

I am most definitely in the muse-led camp, not the outlining one. I tried outlining my most recent book, Twelfth Night at Longbourn and it was an unmitigated disaster.
My muse took off and the first chapter essentially wrote itself, so I was lulled into believing that the story would proceed relatively easily.  I started outlining at that point. I got a chapter sort of written, but it didn’t work, so I tried again and that didn’t work. So I redid the outline. I went through a total of four rounds of that, all failing spectacularly.  Finally I tossed the outline and just wrote.
My muse returned and the story took shape, including an ending I did not see coming until I actually wrote it. This shouldn’t have been a surprise though. Every time I try to write to an outline I end up in the same place. 
I have learned to get a sense of the story early on though, and jot notes along the way about the major plot points and how the story is going to get to there. Those look a little like outlines, (shh—don’t’ let me muse hear me say that!) but they are much less structured and intimidating to my fragile muse.
My ideal writing routine is pretty old fashioned. I spend the first hour or so of the day dealing with email and the like. Then I leave the desk, pass through the kitchen to pick up my breakfast and morning caffeine on the way to my comfy writing chair in the living room. I settle into my chair with my blanket and watch to see who the designated ‘foot-rest cat’ will be.  He jumps up, gets comfy and starts purring. I grab my notebook and pen and start where I left off the day before.
I generally get down at least one thousand words as well as plot points and research notes before I leave. Some days are easier than others, but that hour or two of undisturbed time is golden for me. I kind of hate to leave it.  But foot-rest cat ends up losing his spot and I return to the office for editing and blog work and other such tasks.

I wonder if your cats realize what an important role they play? I could believe that their purring would create a nice atmosphere too! Is there any setting that is more inspirational to you when writing?

When the weather permits, I like to strap on running shoes in the early afternoon, hit the running trails and crawl into my head to listen to where the muse goes.  That is often where I get my best ideas. It is the time where there is no computer, phone or family to listen for and I can really settle into my creative space.

It seems you have the same pleasure of being outdoors as Lizzy and Jane Austen. What about their world, the Regency era is appealing to you?

My academic background is neither history nor English, but sociology and economics. The Regency appeals to me because it was a period of profound change in these areas, but still not so far removed from the modern era that the people and situations are unreachable.

      Tell us something about your newest book that you love most. (if you can without giving anything away)

My newest book, Twelfth Night at Longbourn takes place during the Regency Christmastide form December to the first week in January. I ended up doing far more research than I expected on the holiday traditions and customs of the era and ended up writing over a dozen blog posts on those alone. My favorite things to research were the historical recipes and parlor games that were played. I really loved incorporating all those details into the book.

Those were very interesting details in the book too. I was fascinated by some of the foods and receipts you mentioned. What have you learned from writing that has helped you in your daily life?

My writing has taught me that I am capable of more than I thought and that I can still learn. Today, it isn’t enough for an author to merely write and research. Though I focus on that, there is a lot more that is needed: book design, graphic arts, expertise at photoshop—all for just building the books themselves; web design and html code, and copy writing to manage the website; social medial, marketing and publicity and issues in the publishing industry to stay abreast off to enable me to sell books so that I can keep writing books. All this is on top of trying to advance my writing and editing skills. In all, I subscribe to nearly 100 websites though Feedly Reader to learn as much as I can as fast as I can. A lot of things I thought were beyond me aren’t. I am learning and doing new things daily and loving it. ‘Can’t’ is slowly being erased from my vocabulary.

Sounds like you stay very busy with all aspects of a writing career. Loving it is the icing on the cake. Speaking of loving...I have a very important question for you! We all have our special reasons for loving Mr. Darcy, what are your reasons?

Why do I love Darcy? Elizabeth Bennet, when you really look at the story, is a very imperfect heroine.  It had always been wonderfully hopeful for me to see an imperfect heroine get to happily ever after. How could I not love the hero who did that?

Thanks so much for having me Janet. It was lovely to visit with you.

You can fine me on line: author.MariaGrace@gmail.com.
 Facebook: facebook.com/AuthorMariaGrace
On Amazon.com: amazon.com/author/mariagrace
Visit her website Random Bits of Fascination (RandomBitsofFascination.com)
On Twitter @WriteMariaGrace

You can find Twelfth Night at Longbourn:

Gumroads (pdf) https://gum.co/SbVX

Paper back to be released this week.

That is wonderful news to have your paperback released this week! I know you are happy about that and those readers that still love to hold a book in their hands when they read (myself included) will be thrilled to hear it! Congratulations.  

Thank you again, for being my guest and allowing my blog to be part of your tour. By the way, I like your reason for 'loving Mr. Darcy'. Thank you also for your generous giveaway. Maria Grace will be giving away one paperback to a lucky winner, US address only. She will also be giving away a digital copy for an eReader to another lucky winner, and this one is international. We want to hear your share in the conversation so please leave a comment. Including your email address with the comment will enter you in the giveaway. Good luck to all. Giveaway will end at midnight, January 6, 2014. 

I wish you all a very Happy New Year blessed with good health and happiness. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

And the winners are...

Congratulations to the two winners of:

by C.P. Odom

An eBook for an eReader and a trade paperback
are the two giveaways.

And the winners are...

Monica P who left a comment on December 20
BrendaNZ who left a comment of December 20

Please get back to me as soon as possible with your appropriate addresses, email or shipping!

Thanks for commenting and congratulations again! You should receive your books shortly after it is released.

Thank you, Michele Reed for having the giveaway. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Exploring the Consequences of a Critical Decision With C.P. Odom

Dear readers, I am so excited to have author C. P. Odom as my guest this week. I have been looking forward to his post since his calling card was presented. Mr. Odom was the very first guest of my new blog in March 2013.  I was honored to have him then and am just as honored today! Thank you, for agreeing to come back for a visit and to share with us a little about your latest book, soon to be released. I must tell you that from what I have read here, I am hooked already! Enough from me, let's hear from C.P. Odom on Consequences!

I want to thank Janet for giving me an opportunity to talk about Consequences, which is my second book for Meryton Press (actually, my second book, period!), which will be published later in December.  Like my first book, A Most Civil Proposal, it’s a variation on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and both books originated as fan-fiction postings on the old Hyacinth Gardens website.  I kind of stumbled into reading and then writing Jane Austen fan-fiction by accident, and it still surprises me that an engineer and former Marine would wind up writing in Jane Austen’s world.  But that’s life—always full of surprises.
Anyway, both Consequences and A Most Civil Proposal explore what might have happened if one little thing in Austen’s work was changed.  A Most Civil Proposal, examined what might have happened if Darcy had decided to make a more civil proposal at Hunsford rather than the proud and arrogant proposal as in the book.  Consequences focuses on Elizabeth’s fiery and angry rejection of Darcy’s proposal as a critical decision point, and the book is made up of two parts that explore two different consequences resulting from that critical decision.

In Book 1, “The Road Not Taken,” the fortuitous meeting of Elizabeth and Darcy at Pemberley and the re-kindling of their romance does not take place.  After all, that meeting was highly coincidental in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  What if Darcy had come along ten minutes later, when Elizabeth and her party had already started their tour of the Pemberley grounds? He would have entered the house and been in consultation with his steward when the Gardiners and their niece emerged from the grounds, boarded their carriage, and departed. And if he had been ten minutes earlier, he might well have entered the house before they saw him. And even if Elizabeth had seen him at a distance and recognized him while he didn’t see her, would she have run after him and spoken to him? Highly doubtful, I would think. More likely, she would have counted herself lucky to avoid the mortification of meeting him.  Thus, Darcy doesn’t learn of Lydia’s elopement and doesn’t find the couple in London and rescue the Bennet family’s reputation, and events go from bad to worse.  High angst.

In contrast, in Book 2, “The Sleeper Wakes,” Elizabeth wakes from a horrendous nightmare (which was everything that occurred in Book 1) at Hunsford prior to Darcy’s proposal, and the lingering effects of that mostly-unremembered-but-still-emotional event cause her to accept instead of reject that proposal, which doesn’t turn out to be nearly the horrible mistake that she thinks it will be.

When I originally posted the story at the old Hyacinth Garden website, the (mostly female) readers wanted to lynch me at the end of Book 1!  I hope the publication of this new book doesn’t end my writing career (such as it is!).

One thing that I want to mention, for those readers who might have read the fan-fiction version I originally posted, is that the preparation of Consequences for publication required a significant amount of both rewriting the originally posted version and the addition of quite a bit of additional material.  My editor, Christina Boyd, really challenged me in several areas, and, while the experience was not always pleasant, I think she helped me correct some of my, let us say, “awkward” tendencies.  I’m rather pleased with the improvement of the flow of the story, and I hope the readers agree.  I’m a trained engineer, remember, not a professional writer, and I’m still learning.  As for the additional material, that was necessitated by the different audience I was writing to.  When I wrote it for the fan-fiction audience, I considered that I was writing to an audience that had likely committed Pride and Prejudice to memory, and so I could leave out a lot of background material.  I could not do the same when writing for a wider audience, though I also couldn’t just repeat what Austen originally wrote.  So there’s a lot more content than in the original posting.  In addition, my editor suggested the addition of an “Author’s Q&A” section at the back of the book, with a number of potential questions that readers might have as well as my answers to those questions.  I was skeptical at first, but she said that such a section could be very helpful if it was discussed by a book club.  That was news to me, but you have to trust your editor, right?  So we put together a list of questions, such as:
  • What was the main rationale that inspired the writing of Consequences?
  • Was Elizabeth Bennet’s rejection of Darcy’s first proposal at Hunsford justified in the context of her times?
  • Was the financial situation of Elizabeth’s family really as extreme as postulated in “Book 1,” or was that a case of an author taking liberties to justify his plotline?

Thanks again to Janet for again having me post again on her blog, and I hope I haven’t scared off any potential readers.  Below is a short excerpt from Consequences for your perusal.  Thanks for reading!


Excerpt from Consequences:


“The main thing history can teach us is that human actions have consequences and that certain choices, once made, cannot be undone. They foreclose the possibility of making other choices, and thus they determine future events.”
—Gerda Lerner, historian, author, teacher

Charlotte Collins was engaged in inspecting her hens when she saw Mr. Darcy approaching the gate of the Parsonage, having come from the direction of Rosings Park. When he spied her, he greeted her in his usual polite but restrained manner, and she invited him to precede her to the house.

“I shall be there directly, Mr. Darcy,” she called. Turning to the servant who held the basket partially filled with eggs, she said, “I will finish here, Susan. Please go into the house and see the tea is set for our visitor. And please inform Miss Elizabeth and my sister that Mr. Darcy has called and I shall return to the house directly.”

Susan gave her mistress both the basket and a quick curtsey before running into the house, followed at a more reasonable gait by Mr. Darcy. Charlotte clucked her tongue disapprovingly, considering whether to admonish Susan yet again for running, but decided against it, for the young girl seemed naturally to break into a run whenever dispatched on an errand.

Of greater import to her was the thought of Mr. Darcy and his frequent visits to the Parsonage. After his first impromptu visit, she suggested to Elizabeth he must be in love with her, but her friend’s description of the way he sat so silently, unable or unwilling to talk, made the idea seem unlikely. Since then, Mr. Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam made almost daily visits to the Parsonage, sometimes together, sometimes separately, and even occasionally accompanied by their aunt.

Whatever Mr. Darcy’s motives, it was plain Colonel Fitzwilliam visited because he had pleasure in their society, a conjecture making him even more agreeable. Elizabeth remarked that his company was so affable and his admiration of her so evident, it reminded her of her former favourite, George Wickham. However, she continued, her assessment was that the good colonel appeared to have the better-informed mind, even if he did not have the same ability to captivate as did Mr. Wickham.

Charlotte had made no response to this evaluation since her own opinion of Mr. Wickham was much at variance with that of her friend.

In any case, she thought, as she finished gathering the eggs, I was thinking on Mr. Darcy and his reason for coming so often to the Parsonage. It is most difficult to decipher since he does not appear to come for the society. He frequently sits there for ten minutes without opening his lips, and when he does speak, it seems to be driven by necessity and not by choice — a sacrifice to propriety rather than a pleasure to himself.

The way in which Colonel Fitzwilliam occasionally laughed at Mr. Darcy, for what he termed his cousin’s stupidity, made it seem likely he was different on most other occasions. However, since she never witnessed such pleasant behaviour from Mr. Darcy, she had no way of validating that possibility. Charlotte would have liked to believe this change was due to love—and the object of his love, her friend Eliza—so she set herself the task of working it out. She watched him whenever they were at Rosings and whenever he came to Hunsford, but she had little success. He certainly looked at Elizabeth a great deal, but she had never been able to tell whether his earnest, steadfast gaze was due to admiration or absence of mind.

Of late, after she observed Mr. Darcy most carefully, she again suggested to Elizabeth the possibility of his being partial to her, but this suggestion met with no more agreement than previously. Her friend simply would not consider the suggestion seriously and always laughed at the idea. Charlotte did not press the subject on those occasions; she did not want to raise Eliza’s expectations for fear they might end in disappointment. In any case, she was not worried by Elizabeth’s oft-professed dislike of Mr. Darcy, for she was certain in her own mind that Elizabeth’s objections would vanish if she ever had reason to believe he might be in her power. On that point, she had no doubts whatever.


Well, you certainly have not scared off this reader, Mr. Odom. You have, most unquestionably, served to whet my appetite for reading more of this book! The aforementioned knowledge that the tide turns in the second part, will keep me from total despair (and wanting to lynch you) as I read Book I. Much appreciation for giving us that highly welcome assurance. (smiles and sighs with relief)

Thank you again for agreeing to be my guest. Congratulations on this new release and I wish you much success. I feel quite confident that it will not end your writing career! I, for one, will be looking forward to more books from you. By the way, I cannot close without mention of the cover of your book...quite fascinating and intriguing! I love it! 

Michele Reed at Meryton Press is generously offering two books for the giveaway. One is a trade paperback and the other is an eBook for your eReader. Both are international. Good luck to all. Be sure and leave a comment to be entered. We want to hear your say in the conversation. Be sure to include your email address in the comment. To prevent unwanted spam, put your email address with an (at) instead of @.  Winner will be chosen in a random drawing. Giveaway ends at midnight, December 26, Boxing Day. I am allowing extra time due to Christmas!

NOTE:  This book has not been released yet so winners will not receive their copies until after the release date!

Friday, December 13, 2013

And the winners are...

Congratulations, ladies!

The two winners in Alexa Adams's giveaway are:

Maria who left a comment on December 5, paperback

 and Joana Starnes who left a comment on December 6, eBook
Joana has chosen Holidays at Pemberley for her eBook!

I always appreciate you stopping by and having your say in the conversation!

Thank you to Alexa Adams for being my guest and sharing her books with us!

Merry Christmas
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

And the winner is...

BeckyC who left a comment on December 1, you are the winner
of my Thanksgiving Giveaway!

Congratulations on being the randomly selected winner of 'Fitzwilliam & Elizabeth", the 2014 calendar. 
As soon as I hear from you via email with your mailing address, I will ship it to you!

Thanks for supporting my blog.
Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tales of Less Pride & Prejudice with Alexa Adams

Alexa Adams, author of Holidays At Pemberley, a newly released novel, is my guest today. I am very excited to have Alexa visit my blog as part of her blog tour. She has graciously allowed me to interview her and her answers are both informative and thought provoking. I hope that you will find them as interesting as I did. 

I remember seeing First Impressions, the first novel by Alexa Adams, on Amazon and thinking it sounded very good. I purchased it and starting reading it immediately. I was pleasantly surprised at the Jane Austen style of writing that this author used in that book and has continued in her Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice. It was and is quite delightful. 

In celebration of the holidays, Alexa is giving away two of her books, Second Glances and Holidays At Pemberley, winner's choice. More information will be given at the end of the post.

Now please join me in welcoming Alexa Adams.

How and when did your interest in Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice take root?

My interest in Austen actually began when I found a copy of Northanger Abbey in a train station gift shop when I was 11. At that age, I tended to choose books by their cover (which is how I ended up reading Frances Burney’s Evelina that same year, when I was far too young to make sense of it), and Northanger looked to be filled with romance and pretty dresses, which was my main criteria for a good read. Though I didn’t understand the satire of the story, I knew there was something special about the book, and it was not long before I read the rest of Austen’s major novels. Persuasion, rather than Pride & Prejudice, has always been my particular favorite, but there is something about P&P that opens itself to reimagining and reinterpretation. Of course, like many others, I was completely captivated with the 1995 BBC mini-series when it first aired. It is by far my favorite Austen film, even if it isn’t my favorite of her novels.   

What drove you to start writing your own books? Did you write other things before writing PnP variations?

As I approached my late twenties, it was becoming increasingly obvious that I was not going to happily endure a forty plus year career in sales and marketing. I somewhat abruptly quit my job and took on occasional and part-time work, including freelance writing, while I did some soul searching. I felt pretty lost, and it was in this state that I discovered the world of Jane Austen fan fiction. At first, I only read the books I could find in the bookstore, having no notion there was this entire online world of Janeites busily writing away. I was buying the second volume of a rather famous and very explicit P&P continuation when the lady at the register asked me if it was any good. I explained that the work in question was a great deal too sexual for my comfort, but that I was obsessed and had to read it anyway. She then asked, “Why don’t you write your own book?” I blinked at her a few times, shook my head negatively, and paid for my purchase, but the question stayed in my head. It was not long after that I wrote First Impressions.     

Do you have a muse that causes your story to lead you at times or do you use an outline and follow it religiously? What is your writing routine?

I recently became acquainted with the term “pantser” (as in fly be the seat of your pants-er), and it perfectly describes my writing style. I often have only a vague notion of precisely where my stories are headed when I start them, and even that is subject to change. Once I begin, the story (if things are going well) starts to dictate its own terms, taking on a life of its own. I feel very much a vehicle, rather than a creator. Of course, that first draft is usually dreadful, and I do lots of revisions, often scrapping large chunks. I rewrote the end to Second Glances, my last book, less than a month before publication.

Is there any setting that is more inspirational to you when writing?

I wish there was! I seem to have to flit about all the time, changing my scenery constantly to stay inspired. I get stuck, I move somewhere else, and the words begin to flow once more. Thank goodness for laptops!

What about the Regency era is appealing to you?

There are few things more charming to me than a empire waisted dress and a bonnet, but I do see a lot of correlations between our own time and Austen’s: both periods of social upheaval and unrest. In fact, this holds true for many of the eras in which Austen’s stories were particularly popular, like World War I, when she brought solace to British soldiers in the trenches. I imagine Austen used her writing to help escape from the cares of the world. Her characters struggle, but rarely from abject misery. There is an order to the world she describes that it comforting to souls in upheaval. Many of us need that kind of refuge right now.

Tell us something about your newest book that you love most. (if you can without giving anything away)

As I begin to read reviews for Holidays at Pemberley, I’m delighted learn that my favorite scene is one which others seem to love, too. It takes place towards the end of the novel, when ALL the members, beloved and bemoaned, of the extended Darcy, Fitzwilliam, and Bennet families gather at Pemberley for the annual Twelfth Night ball. It’s when they all sit down to dine together that Lady Catherine gets spunky. My Lady C is far more mild than Austen’s, but this was my opportunity finally, after three novels, to have her to deliver that wonderful “shades of Pemberley” line. I just love it!  

What have you learned from writing that has helped you in your daily life?

Empathy. Writing forces you to see the perspectives of others and relate to them, whether you like a character or not. It has made me a kinder, gentler person. There is also little so humbling as a scathing review, and while they are painful to receive, learning from and coping with such criticism definitely builds character.

Is there anything special about yourself or your writing that you would be willing to share with us?

My writing, like my personality, is impulsive. I’ve always wanted to be as calm and pragmatic as Elinor Dashwood, but I am much more like Marianne. This leads me to rush through stories in my excitement to get it all down on paper, often not taking the time I should to fully develop the plot and characters. I’m trying to improve.

Do you have a modern day author that has inspired you? If yes, what was it about their writing that was an inspiration?

The modern writer who most directly influenced my work is Abigail Reynolds. I was rereading one of her novels when the idea for First Impressions came to me. I think it is safe to credit her with pioneering the sub-genre of “What if?” Austenesque.

Most of the writers who’ve inspired me, like Austen, are long dead. I prefer to read 19th century literature.

Now for a very important question, we all have our special reasons for loving Mr. Darcy, what are your reasons?

Mr. Darcy is an idealized man. For a mere mortal to combine total devotion, intelligence, moral integrity, and a vast fortune is too much to expect. Of all his fine qualities, I think its the extent and totality of his love for Elizabeth that most attracts me. He is also the only one of Austen’s heroes who has to prove himself worthy of the heroine. In fact, several of her heroes (Edward Ferrars, Edmund Bertram, Captain Wentworth) are patently unworthy of their heroines, yet each wins his lady’s hand with only minor struggle. Mr. Darcy steps out of his sphere of comfort, alters his behavior, and rescues Elizabeth’s family from disgrace. The man who would do all this is a remarkable specimen, indeed! I’ve long said I grew up on the day I learned to prefer Mr. Darcy to Mr. Rochester, the favorite hero of my teenage years. Now it is hard to imagine what I ever found attractive in him at all. I’ll take Mr. Darcy over pretty much any gentlemen in literature, and I’ll continue to remind myself of the ways my husband resembles this prince charming of Pemberley, rather than dwell on where he, like all men, falls short.

Alexa, I love your answer to the last question, especially your last sentence. You show an intuitiveness that I admire. To dwell on the good rather than short-comings is a goal we would all do well to achieve! Thank you for sharing that thought and for allowing me the privilege of interviewing you. I wish you much success with your books and look forward to many more novels from you.

Thank you also for allowing me to host a giveaway of two of your books. This giveaway is for a paperback or eBook for Nook or Kindle, winner's choice, to winner/s in the USA. If the winner/s is/are international, then the giveaway is for an eBook for your Nook or Kindle. The winners may choose which of the two books being offered that they would like to receive. Again, the two books are Holidays At Pemberley and Second GlancesGood luck to all. Leave a comment to be entered. We want to hear your say in the conversation. Be sure to include your email address in the comment. To prevent unwanted spam, put your email address with an (at) instead of @.  Winners will be chosen in a random drawing. Giveaway ends at midnight, December 9. 

Purchase these books and others
by Alexa Adams at Amazon and Barnes & Noble